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How Velocity upgraded Australian dad to Space Class for Galactic flight

written by Hannah Dowling | July 14, 2021
Melbourne dad-of-three Scott Copeland is headed to space with Virgin Galactic after winning a 2014 competition (Virgin Australia)

The Australian dad-of-three lined up to take a seat on a future Virgin Galactic flight into suborbital space has revealed how he won this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Earlier this week, Australian Aviation reported that Melbourne-based banker Scott Copeland was gearing up to take his seat aboard Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity spaceplane, after winning a 2014 Velocity Frequent Flyer “Ultimate Upgrade to Space” competition.

The 52-year-old dad told the ABC earlier on Wednesday that he remembered receiving an email in 2014 with the subject line “Upgrade to Space Class”, sent to all Velocity members, which he initially read mistakenly.

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“I thought, ‘oh great, upgrade to first class,” he said, “[However] when I went into it, [I realised] it said you can get an upgrade to fly on Virgin Galactic!”

Copeland said he has long dreamed of heading into space, and jumped at the opportunity to join in the competition for a future spaceflight.

To be in the running to win the Ultimate Upgrade to Space, Velocity members were required to book and fly on Virgin Australia between 1 May to 30 June 2014, plus register and outline, in 25 words or less, what they would do for a seat to space.

Following thousands of entries, Copeland won the competition with the following response:

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“I would seek out my Primary School Grade 5 teacher from 1979 who never believed I would be an astronaut and tell her in no uncertain terms that ‘I told you so!!’”

And just like that, Copeland was selected to join Virgin Galactic’s Future Astronaut Community, and will soon blast off to suborbital space.

“It took me a really long time to get my head around that,” Copeland told the ABC. “I literally froze. I couldn’t talk. I literally couldn’t talk for 20 seconds.

“When I started to tell people they didn’t believe it.

“It was just amazing.”

Since winning the competition, the self-confessed “space enthusiast” has travelled to the Mojave Desert in California to tour the Virgin Galactic facility with other future astronauts and see the spaceship VSS Unity.

Copeland said he has also received a lot of information from Virgin Galactic about what to expect, ahead of his very first spaceflight.

“One of the things that they’re really conscious of is just prepar[ing] mindfully,” he said.

“They say going up into space, it’s such an unusual event for most people that you really need to be aware of your surroundings.”

According to Copeland, Virgin Galactic has advised their future astronauts to try and keep really focused and aware during the 10 minutes they would be floating in the cabin, and seeing the earth’s curve from above.

It comes after Virgin Australia co-founder and Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson himself officially completed his mission to become the first of the billionaires currently investing in space tourism technologies to reach space aboard his own company’s rocket.

Sir Richard blasted off to the edge of space on his Virgin Galactic spaceplane on Sunday, in the company’s 22nd successful spaceflight, and fourth crewed flight to space.

On his inaugural spaceflight, Sir Richard joined a full crew of two pilots and three mission specialists aboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo dubbed VSS Unity – a six-passenger, two-pilot craft that is designed to make brief jaunts to suborbital space.

Sir Richard’s monumentous flight was viewed by hundreds from Virgin Galactic’s New Mexico-based base Spaceport America, as well as tens of thousands during the live-streamed event.

Among these viewers around the globe was, of course, Copeland.

With Sir Richard’s inaugural spaceflight out of the way, 52-year-old father-of-three Copeland is one step closer to cashing in on his major prize, and has joined the pool of Virgin Galactic’s Future Astronaut Community.

“If Richard Branson can go up at [age] 71, I think I’ll be OK in my early 50s,” Copeland said.

The senior banker-come-astronaut said he has long dreamed of flying to space, and is excited to see this dream come to reality, just like Sir Richard’s.

“I still pinch myself every day that my dream of entering space is close to reality,” said Copeland.

“Velocity is the only frequent flyer program in Australia to award a member a ticket to space,” Virgin Australia Jayne Hrdlicka said of Copeland’s big win.

“We’re so proud that working with Virgin Galactic we have been able to make Scott’s childhood dream a reality for simply joining Velocity and flying with Virgin Australia.”

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